How to prep cats for introductions
June 12, 2006 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Four cats, soon to be living together in one house. I'm looking for suggestions as to how to introduce them. Help me help them play nice. [more inside]

I've seen suggestions in other threads about introducing new cats to a household, but this will be a new household to all cats involved.

My mom and I are moving into a house together. The house currently has no animal residents, so there should be no left over scents - it's a blank slate, really. She has a crazy female Siamese (think Lady and the Tramp's Siameses) and a lazy male tabby. I have a lazy female tabby and a snooty female Bengal. Her cats get along great with eachother, and same goes for mine, obviously. All cats are spayed/neutered.

While I understand nothing is guaranteed when it comes to animals and how they will like eachother, is there anything we can do to help the process? The move is in a month's time.

There will be dogs, too, but we are already introducing them to each other and giving them play time in neutral areas. Our dogs visit each others houses regularly, too, so they have sort of met the cats as well. I considered having our cats go meet at each other's houses, but cats are so weird about new places I thought that might be more stressful and make it worse.
posted by routergirl to Pets & Animals (9 answers total)
Wow, that will be quite the household!

For the cats, designate a room (with doors, so like a bedroom) for your cats and a separate room for your mom's cats. Let them get used to the new room with the cat they already know.

Then, switch it up for a few supervised hours. Either let all the cats into one room, or put one of your cats with one of your mom's cats to meet one on one and then let those cats meet the other cats they haven't met one on one. Don't ever let it be two on one though.

After they've met each other and destressed a bit, let them have the run of the house (or as much of it as you are going to let them have ultimately).

Make sure there's one litter box for each of them (even though they all might use all of them, it's a good rule of thumb to have one box per cat).

The key is to go slowly and don't show favoritism.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:04 AM on June 12, 2006

Can you put a cat door on one of the interior doors? Something to make an all-cats, no-dog room?

If the current doors are no good for that -- perhaps too fancy to cut up -- maybe you could get a cheap replacement door to put that cat door into, then store the nice door away in the attic or basement for another time. That might also be a way to keep the smell of cat boxes isolated from the rest of the house.
posted by pracowity at 10:30 AM on June 12, 2006

I agree with keeping each familiar pair of cats in their own rooms for at least the first day, so that they get used to the new surroundings with a familiar companion.

However, my suggestion for the next step would be to let one pair of cats move into a room connected to the room with the other cats, so that they can smell that the new cats are there, and allow them to become curious about what's on the other side.

After a day of this, then I would try introducing them under supervision, but you should let them sort of sort things out on their own, and not try to hold one up to the other, or anything like that. Just do something else and ignore all cats, while being present just in case actual fighting breaks out. They will probably stalk around and be confused and weird, since that's what cats do best. ;-)

Good luck!
posted by tastybrains at 11:52 AM on June 12, 2006

If you have two rooms next to each other with a door, put a set of cats on each side of the door. Under the door, put a long string-like toy that goes in both directions. This will encourage them to play with each other while not ivading each other's space.

Also, if you switch their toys & bedding a week or two in, that can help them get used to the smells of the other cats. Don't forget lots of new toys and pettings! Worse comes to worse, you can always wash them all to neutralize their scents and give them a mutual enemy (you!).

Switching which side of the door they're on would help, too, though I'd say do a little at a time. When you first introduce them (as opposed ot just letting them smell each other), have toys they particularly like and play and pet them so they associate each other with god things. Cat treats and catnip can help, too.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:53 AM on June 12, 2006

When I introduced a new adoptee to my first cat, I used most of the same recommendations listed above. However, when they did meet, fights would break out. Expect that to happen, and try to break it up without getting clawed/bitten. The cats are just showing dominance... I would imagine that to be all instinctual. For the first few weeks, never let all the cats be together without supervision.

I'd put the first pair in one room, and the second pair in another room, where only a door seperates them. This way, they can come to the door, and 'smell' the other cats.. and they will. =)

After a couple of days, switch rooms. The cats will act nervous, and will stalk around (smelling the scent of the other cats). Let them get used to it, and them swap them again. By this point, they should be aware of 1) the house and 2) there are other cats around.

Now, make the introduction. Remember, they will freak out. They will try to fight one another. Try to break them up, but realize that this is something that will just happen.
posted by triolus at 12:02 PM on June 12, 2006

Have a broom and a squirt gun at the ready when they meet. Most catfights are posturing and sound much worse than they are -- let them hiss, and try not to freak over someone swatting someone's nose.

If it really turns nasty, do not intervene with your bare hands. A friend of mine took a bite into her middle finger tendon doing this recently, and has permanent loss of flexibility in it. Stomp and shout; use the broom and squirt gun.

It probably won't be that bad -- see "most catfights are posturing" above, but it's worth keeping in mind.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 12:34 PM on June 12, 2006

I considered having our cats go meet at each other's houses

No, you're moving way too fast. Don't let the cats meet at each other's houses, but definitely *do* let them wander in the other house while the home cats are away (or safely locked up, but away is best). Just have your mom bring her cats over to your house while you bring yours over to her house and let them spend an afternoon there getting used to the smell (keep the dogs away, too). Then bring them home and let them get used to the smell of the visiting cats in their home. Then do it again in a week, and the week after that. Then do as misanthropicsarah suggests, but with a much slower time frame. Put the cats into separate rooms (or 2- to 3-room sections of the house, clearly divided so they don't see each other) for a few days, only letting them out when the other cats aren't visible. Switch areas after a day, then switch areas again, keeping them separate. After 2-3 days, let them see one another supervised, but don't let them mix. Then, take down the barriers on a day when you and your mom are both going to be home all day.

You want to take longer than a day with that many animals. You'll have to let them loose eventually and allow a pecking order to sort itself out, but you really should give the weaker cats a chance to get comfortable before taking the plunge. That means taking time. Make them wait for the main event, which will almost certainly involve hissing and fighting, but probably won't be completely awful. Keep that squirt gun handy.

That said, you may be surprised at how quickly they acclimate, and may decide to move things along more speedily after the first few adjustments. Last time I handled this kind of thing, the cats really did let us know when it was time to let go. But for your own sanity, I'd definitely start now by switching houses on them without the strange cats present, and be prepared for days of separation in the new home as they get used to each others' presence.
posted by mediareport at 1:28 PM on June 12, 2006

We must have had the most mellow cats in the world when I blended my three in with my housemates' four cats. I don't even remember what we did, I do remember keeping my cats in my rooms for a few days while they calmed down from the move. The other cats were already longtime residents of the house. We did not have a single fight, there was some hissing and arched backs. They never blended enough to sleep together, my three would snuggle together and the other cats would snuggle together, but no mixing occurred.

It did not take long at all before we had all seven cats (eight, with a visiting neighbor cat that got absorbed into the household too) established with a breakfast and dinner routine of going to their own separate bowls while they got their "softies and crunchies". It was a cat circus for sure, with all the cats in the same room patiently waiting for their bowls to be filled.
posted by Jazz Hands at 2:27 PM on June 12, 2006

All of the above is very good advice.

It should work, but if you run into problems you can try this. Use a kennel cage, like at the pet store, and put two familiar cats on the outside, and two on the inside. If they are having problems getting along, this will give them a way to work it out, get used to each other and diminish any sense of threat. Make sure you alternate pairs, taking turns in and out of the kennel.

Two notes
One - if you are using a dog kennel, make sure the spaces between the bars aren't so large the cats can fight right through them.

Two - be careful that confrontations through the cage don't become confrontations within or without. Sometimes an agitated cat can pounce on the nearest cat to them, even a boon companion - Friendly Feline Fire, so to speak.
posted by SalvoSensu at 9:58 AM on July 10, 2006

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